Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview


MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

What's a parent to do?

Written by Steve Matthews on Aug 27, 2015
I love this picture. It's old. It's beginning to fade. Some of the color has rubbed off.

It is a picture of the boys on Beaufait. Two of my boys are in this picture - Zach, with the big smile, on the right, and Jake, the farthest left.



The boy in the purple shirt is now a PhD in Civil Engineering.

The youngest boy just left for Marine boot camp last Sunday.

Jake has studied graphic and web design and is looking for a job. Zach works full-time and goes to school.

Many years have passed since this picture was taken. Yet when I see this picture and know who these children have become I can't help but think of Mrs. Fraser, Mrs. Reith, Mr. (now Dr.) Dib, Mrs. Gawel, Mr. Hunwick, Mr. Bens, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Quinn, Mr. Stackpoole, Ms. McGuire, and many other teachers who influenced my children in positive and profound ways.

No longer do I have young children to get ready for the start of school. While I anticipate and look forward to the start of school it is because I am the Superintendent not because I have children who are anticipating that first day of school. 

As a parent I wanted each school year to be perfect.

It never was.

But our family survived and my boys survived. How? Here are lessons I learned as my boys went through school. They may, or may not, be helpful as you prepare for another new school year.

Establish a good routine. My wife and I established a bed time and a time to get up in the morning for our children. We learned this lesson the hard way. There were too many nights and too many mornings that did not go well because we were rushing. A routine helped us manage more successfully.

There will be times to vary, but a routine helps establish other things. If everyone knows when bedtime is then it is easier to know when to start homework and when to start baths and when to start bedtime reading. It also made it easier in the morning when one child took a long time to wake up and one child could get ready in an instant.

Read to your children. Everyday! My wife and I would take turns reading. We read to our boys up through middle school.

Reading has many positive academic benefits - increased fluency, increased vocabulary, increased sense of language. But it also has many social-emotional connections. My sons and I cried reading Bridge to Terabithia. We had wonderful discussions reading Jurassic Park.

There is no right way to read. My oldest kept very still while we read, right beside me in the bed. My youngest couldn't sit still and played with toys and moved around the whole time. Just read - that's the most important thing!

My experience taught me that teachers, principals, bus drivers, school secretaries, and food service workers cared for my children. They probably didn't care as much as I did - but they cared a lot! Teachers and principals did their jobs because they wanted what was best for my children. They invested themselves everyday to help my children find success.

Sometimes success was elusive. Sometimes things don't go well. But it was not because the people who worked in schools didn't like my kids, didn't know what to do, or didn't care.

When things went wrong - as they inevitably did - I learned that I needed to take the time to talk to the people directly involved. I learned to approach them with the belief that they cared for my children - because they did.

We worked together. We tried to find solutions. Sometimes we didn't go in the direction that I thought we should. When that happened I sometimes thought that the end would be catastrophe. It never was. Things sorted themselves out. 

When things didn't work out like I thought they should it was not because the teacher or administrator was trying to be mean or didn't care. The teacher or administrator or coach was making what they considered to be the best decision possible.

I also learned that my boys sometimes did stupid things. When they did it was best to help my boys see that it was stupid and accept the consequences instead of trying to get them out of it. My hope is that they learned that I loved them and that they also learned a lesson.

There are lots of things that I learned raising three boys. What I learned most of all is that schools were great places for my boys to learn and grow and mature into great adults!


The Wright Brothers - a guide to reforming education

Written by David Britton on Aug 25, 2015
‘The Wright Brothers,’ by David McCullough - The New York Times

‘The Wright Brothers,’ by David McCullough (New York Times #1 Bestseller) is one of the best books I've read this summer.

In very succinct fashion (unlike his previous abundant tomes), McCullough clearly outlines the benefits of an education centered around creativity, collaboration, communication (the members of the Wright family wrote considerably), personalized learning, problem-solving, and the desire to publish and make things. The story of the Wright Brothers is all of these and more.

If you haven't read it, you really should.  Every educator should.



Does it really all come down to this?

Written by Steve Matthews on Aug 20, 2015
Am I willing to determine the effectiveness of a teacher based on this chart?













It is a good chart. It provides me with a lot of data. It measures a student's growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year - an important and worthwhile bit of information.

This specific chart shows the math achievement of a group of first graders. The overwhelming majority of these first grade students ended up in the high achievement/high growth quadrant.

Awesome!

A couple were in the low achievement/high growth quadrant.

Again - very good! While achievement is not quite where it needs to be these students did show growth over the course of the year.

Two students were in the high achievement/low growth section of this chart.

That is the mixed-bag area. Clearly these students perform above grade level but they did not make the desired growth.

Does that mean this teacher failed these students?

I can create a chart like this for every teacher in my district for math and reading achievement. The question is - does it really tell me all I need to know about a teacher?

I don't think it does.

Student achievement is important. Parents send their sons and daughters to the schools in my district because they expect that students will learn.

I need to be able to determine if students are learning.

A chart like this gives me information.

But is it the right and only information?

The simple answer is no! This is not the right and only information that I need to determine a teacher's effectiveness.

But some would argue that I am wrong. Some would argue that this is indeed all I need to know about a teacher.

Did the students learn?

Did they make progress?

If I have the answers to those questions, some would argue, I have all the information I need to determine if the teacher is worth keeping.

I don't believe that!

Clearly I need some information on whether students are learning.

But I need lots of other information on a teacher.

I need to know if a teacher can engage students in meaningful learning.

I need to know if a teacher can inspire students.

I need to know if a teacher can tell when a student is upset and if that teacher takes the time to reach out to that student.

I need to know if a teacher uses instructional strategies that make learning interesting.

I need to know if a teacher knows how to give one kid a push forward and another student more time.

I need to know if a teacher reaches out to parents in meaningful ways to create a great partnership between school and home.

I need to know if a teacher is a good colleague, willing to work with others and find solutions to problems.

I need to know if a teacher works within the rules, following rules when needed, challenging rules when it is called for. 

Being an effective teacher is not just about getting every student to have a high test score.

Being an effective teacher is not just about making sure the end-of-the-year test results show everyone in the high achievement/high growth quadrant.

Being an effective teacher doesn't all come down to one chart at the end of year.

Importance Early Childhood Education

Written by Scot Graden on Aug 14, 2015

As the start of the school year is getting close, I have been thinking about children in our community that are not yet “school-aged.” Research continues to show the critical role that high quality preschool experiences play with regard to student success once the children start kindergarten. In fact, a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University shows that students who participate in strong preschool programs reap benefits reaching into adulthood!  While cognitive benefits cannot be downplayed, the psychological skills learned in preschool programs teach children how to be successful adults.

I recently read a letter from a parent that had a child in Pooh Corner Pre-School last year.  Here is a quote stuck with me,

“For me, the best part about his teachers at Pooh Corner is their ability to maintain a structured learning environment, but also recognize and respond to the needs of the individual child.”

We are fortunate to have access to high quality preschools within our community and region.  When looking at a program, I encourage the focus to be on the following areas:

Learning Environment

Is it a safe environment? Is there space outdoors? Are there a variety of materials?  Open-ended play materials and opportunities?

 

Daily Routine

Is there a consistent routine? Time for child-initiated activities? Large and small group time?

 

Adult-Child Interaction

Is it a warm and caring atmosphere? Is there acknowledgement of child efforts? Is there encouragement for peer interaction?

 

Curriculum Planning & Assessment

Is there a curriculum model? Are the staff taking notes about child behaviors?


Parent Involvement

Is your input valued by the educators?  Are you asked for information to help the teachers better understand your child?  Are you encouraged to visit, volunteer?

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I am looking forward to the school year for the school-aged students and I am also looking forward to seeing the pre-school aged children in our community taking advantage of the learning opportunities available through the Saline Area Schools and the greater Saline community.



Back-to-School with Social Media: What’s On Your PARENT Checklist?

Written by Vickie Markavitch on Aug 11, 2015

LOVE it or DREAD it, back to school is exciting! Teachers prepare new classroom materials while we parents flock to Target to buy our kids new tennis shoes and every single thing on our children’s school supply checklists (because NO ONE wants to fail out of the gate over a missing zippered binder!).

However, somewhere between making haircut appointments and filling out emergency contact cards, moms and dads are overlooking a very important ‘student success’ check-off task:

The Social Media Review.  

This is not on the traditional back-to-school to-do list, but a social media review may be the most important step an adult can take in helping a student have a happy, productive school year.

Parents, do I feel your anxiety level notching up a bit?

Are you thinking it might be easier to find your student that required hand-held calculator last seen on Amazon in 2011 rather than sit him or her down to reveal how much you don’t know about current social media trends?

You are not alone. Most of us parents didn’t grow up online, so we’re a little behind in our social media parenting game. Good news: it’s never too late to catch up, and BETTER news: a little parent preparation and the 3 MMMs make the catch-up and review process simple.

Parent Prep

1) The first thing we need to understand about social media is that it’s all about RELATIONSHIPS. The technology is cool, but the ‘social’ is what our kids find addictive.

As parents, it’s natural to help our kids with their social lives – we nudge them into scouting or youth groups or team sports, and we participate to confirm that they’re engaging with friends, following the group rules and understanding social boundaries.

But now, with computers, tablets and smartphones, a big piece of our kids’ social lives has moved online. When our kids pick up a smartphone, it’s like they put on a Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak and disappear off our parent radar. (And when did social boundaries stretch to include sexting?!)

2) To get our kids back ON our parent radar, we parents have to get ON social media. This means using texting, and creating our own accounts to follow our kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If your children are elementary-aged and too young for a social media account, or if they’re older and stick with smartphone apps like Snapchat or kik, you will still glean social parenting knowledge from participating on the major social media platforms…

3) AND social parenting knowledge is going to put you into a helpful partnership with your tech savvy kids – giving you the familiarity to undertake ongoing, age appropriate social media reviews using the 3 MMMs as your guide.

The 3 MMM Overview

-MANAGE the internet for your elementary-schoolers; reinforce what they are learning at school about digital citizenship, internet safety and cyber friendship. The computer stays in full view at all times; gaming takes place with, or in front of, mom or dad. You are the keeper of all passwords.

-MONITOR your middle-schoolers with regular “safe checks” of their phones, tablets and laptops. Discuss HOW to handle bullying, social drama or sexual situations that occur online (use real scenarios and practice detailed problem-solving). You are the keeper of all passwords.

 -MENTOR your high-schoolers in preparation for them pursuing a career or leaving home for college. Help them each create a healthy online identity using positive social credentials on the social media platforms viewed by college admissions officers and future employers. You are the keeper of all passwords [teens may argue; but if you pay for internet/data usage, you get the passwords! Use discretion; your job is to mentor, not meddle].

Social media doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking component of your children’s social life. In place of worrying about every bad app that pops up, give your kids the information and oversight to make good choices. Everyone makes online mistakes – but the 3 MMMs can mitigate the damage through your proactive online presence…

START your family back-to-school social media discussion at the beginning of the school year, then consciously move to incorporate the 3 MMM practices into daily cyber-family living. Remember, social media is about relationships, and using it to connect to your kids is the best old-school use for our new world technology.

PARENT-EDUCATOR RESOURCES

Parenting Guidelines: Technology Rules for Every Age (PDF)

VIDEO – Tweens, Teens & Social Media (25 minutes)

HELP SHEET – Tweens, Teens & Social Media (PDF)

Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum (for parents & educators)

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Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools

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